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Mission Bulldogs take on Belt for 8-man title Saturday

Daily Inter Lake | November 17, 2022 11:55 PM

Mission’s first 8-man football championship appearance was a long time coming, though superintendent Jason Sargent foresaw it after the 2020 season.

“It’s funny, but when I got hired he said, ‘Our goal is to play Belt in two years,’” Bulldogs second-year head coach Carson Oakland said. “And here we are.”

Mission, 13-0, takes on the 12-0 Belt Huskies at 1 p.m. Saturday for the title. It’s a culmination for eight Bulldog seniors who are 34-9 in their high school careers.

Like Belt, which has a first-year head coach in Matt Triplett — long-time coach Jeff Graham took over the Montana Tech women’s basketball program — Mission recently found itself under new leadership.

Oakland, then the receivers coach at NAIA Dickinson (N.D.) State, came on to replace Tyler Murray after the latter took over East Helena’s fledgling program.

Things have gone swimmingly for both teams since. Oakland is impressed with Belt quarterback Bridger Vogl as well as speedy Ethan Triplett, son of the coach. The Huskies have a stingy defense led by linebacker Garrett Metrione plus Keaton McDaniel and Isaac Maki.

“They all do their own things really well,” Oakland said. “But I could probably point out all eight guys for them. They’re a very solid football team and play well as a unit.”

Quarterback Kellen McClure leads the Mission offense, which will be without standout senior Bryce Umphrey. A neck/back issue has worsened to the point where he has been ruled out.

Oakland said sophomore Titan Mansell will step in for the two-time All-State safety and running back; Mission also has big-play threats in Canyon Sargent and Iyezk Umphrey.

Mission, needless to say, got some snow this week.

“Just got it cleared off today,” Oakland said Thursday. “We had to get the blow torches out to uncover the lines and repaint them.”

The lines should show up Saturday, and so shall the Bulldogs and Huskies.

Both teams have championship history: Belt won the 1994 8-man title, and lost to Roundup for the 1979 Class B championship.

The Montana High School Association doesn’t credit Mission with a football title, but noted Thursday that the Bulldogs were 6-man champions in 1948. The school has toggled from Class C to B (and plays basketball in District 7-B), and this is its first gridiron title game in 74 years.

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